One thing about me, if you know me (and are lucky enough to come by my apartment and spend some time in front of my Outlook), it’s easy to tell how stressed out I am by looking at a few simple metrics. These metrics are:
# What I’m reading
# How may e-mails there are in my inbox
h3. What I’m Reading
My reading patterns respond directly to my stress level. Am I reading fiction? I’m mellow. A history or biography book? Well, I’m a little stressed but quite handling thing. Am I re-reading a book? That means I have prospective stress — I’m not in over my head yet, but times are uncertain. If you catch me reading a book I bought before college, you can be sure I’m stressed. If the book has pictures, well, then I’m in serious trouble. We’ve got a very strong predictor, here, folks.
h3. My Inbox
Now, it’s true, not everybody gets to see what’s in my bedroom. For the benefit of my two readers from business school, I’m going to teach you a trick to tell how stressed-out I am simply by looking at my laptop when I’m in the Popovich Cafe getting tea.
Basically, I like to keep my Inbox empty. It’s a “Getting Things Done”:http://www.davidco.com/what_is_gtd.php thing — I try to touch everything once, take some action, and then move on. But, when I’m stressed, I run behind the incoming e-mail and take action on less than everything and file even less than that. If I have 8-10 items in my inbox, I’m pretty stressed. Two screens of e-mail? Awfully stressed. Five or more? Totally overwhelmed.
h3. So where am I today?
I’m reading a Calvin and Hobbes book and have two screens of e-mail. Where do you think I am? But, by the end of Friday, I’ll have my inbox under control and be back to reading my biography.